Women in politics in Nigeria
There is this popular notion that politics is not a game that should be played by women but I am strongly in favour of the participation of women in politics. I have always believed that the essence of democracy is not merely the enfranchisement of every adult possessing full mental capacity but also the representation of every sector and segment of society in the administration of all organs of the state. I believe that if we are able to ensure fair and proper representation, many of the conflicts that afflict us will be addressed at the necessary and fundamental roots of decision taking.
Naturally, women constitute approximately 50% of our society. To keep them out of or limit their involvement in political offices and positions is to so distort society as to make it unworkable and therefore harmful to all of us. It is also key that we think about how to effectively build a strong political power base for women in appointive and elective office. It is only by so doing that they can influence real change.
Factors that affect the participation of women in politics
It is important to know that there are many factors at work in discouraging women’s participation in politics. They include:
– Relative low economic power;
– Incomplete control over their lives and careers. Control is usually ceded to husbands and fathers;
– Absence of a transparent and open political process; many of the rules and expectations are opaque with gatekeepers;
– The unusual hours and conditions of politicking and political party management is a huge challenge;
– The sexist nature of our culture can place women in very uncomfortable encounters in the process;
– The overhang of traditional beliefs which generally cede political control to men.
How do we address this?
These factors can be addressed and removed by the education of the girl child and the championing of professionalism in women’s every pursuit, be it in the office work space or in the market as traders or even as the home nurturer and care giver. It will also help to constitute support groups for that will provide women stepping forward with the necessary backing and support to mitigate the inherent risks.
Although it is impossible to deny the type of world that we live in, Right now the world is largely male dominated and controlled, it is not the same thing to say that is the natural order of things. Of course, many traditionalists will look at history and say that men have always led, and women have always supported. That is emphatically not true. Let us look at the history of the United Kingdom, arguably the most powerful empire in the world since the decline and fall of the iconic Roman Empire.
It is very important to note that the most significant periods of the growth of the UK into world domination was under female monarchical rule. Start with Elizabeth 1 who saw off the Spanish Armanda and created Fortress Britannica, then to Queen Anne, under whom the potent United Kingdom structure was born and became the most powerful land force in Europe and, finally, to Queen Victoria under whom the U.K gained dominance over the waves and a huge segment of humanity. They are all proof of the enduring quality of female top leadership.
Women in politics in Nigeria
In Nigeria, women have played a significant role in changing society. Queen Amina of Zaria is often spoken of. Beyond her we have Moremi who led her people out of the bondage of war fare. We have the awesome Efunsetan Aniwura of Ibadan whose exploits shook the city to its very core.
We also have Madam Tinubu perhaps the greatest slave trader and land owner in Lagos in the 19th century. There were several others both good and bad. What these women showed is that power is not alien to women.
Power is often not just about competence but about perception. The truth is that many in our society still perceive women to be weak and too ready to appease opponents. Even where there is proof of the opposite, those perceptions are difficult to dispel. That, in my opinion, is the reason many in our society do not see women as natural rulers or determinants of policy.
It seems to me that women are expected to work much harder than men to prove their leadership mettle. Women already in politics must try to be seen as formulators of policy and drivers of necessary change. Whilst engaging in cooperation with other politicians, women, to be taken seriously, must be able to show their principles and their goals for the betterment of the society. That is how they show themselves to be leaders of consequence and of conviction.
In order to achieve this, women need to build their political power base and financial resources to garner allegiance and followership from the masses. This requires the establishment of a fund that credible female candidates can draw on to pursue their political aspirations. The alternative is to continue to rely on the male dominated political machinery which typically puts women in second place positions with very little influence or power to change the game.
Dont be left out…
This is a wakeup call for women. I encourage women to engage in formulation of principles for the building of a fairer, more egalitarian and better educated society. I believe that only education can eradicate the entitlement syndrome that currently drives a largely self-serving and anachronistic male dominated political cadre.
We can all take the first and very simple step today by becoming more politically active. We can do this in different ways: forming political associations or movements which can be used as pressure groups within political parties. Supporting and working for candidates that you identify with. Joining a political party and attending ward meetings.
Information on ward meetings can be obtained from your local government. If as citizens we do not make the effort to engage and get involved in our political process even in the face of the constraints, we would have abdicated our right as citizens of Nigeria to determine our future.